A road trip doesn’t mean taking your car out and hitting the road instantly. There’s a lot of planning involved and a lot of homework to be done before heading out.
In addition to picking out the destinations, one needs to keep a lot of things in mind like – “what’s the best route option to take”, “how are the road conditions”, “will I be able to drive throughout the entire road trip”, “who should I travel with” and many other scenes. All these factors need to be carefully taken into consideration before you actually take the wheel.
Here’s the list of pre-planning essentials to check before hitting the road specifically for an Indian road trip
1. Your Ride
India is a country which has all kinds of terrains. You get to experience different and extreme landscapes and road conditions across its vast length and breadth. Don’t underestimate the power of potholes; some of them have the power to break your rims if hit at high speeds! Choose your ride carefully and take a vehicle suitable for the terrain you are opting to explore.
2. When to Travel
Our country has its own varieties of climates. While some areas are officially closed for a road trip during certain seasons, like Leh during winters and wildlife sanctuaries during monsoons, others might not have such a well-defined system. Make a plan to go through the weather conditions and tourist season for your target destinations so that you don’t feel alone in the middle of som the where in the case of a tyre puncture.
3. Your Target Destination
The diversified geography of India is a very big advantage for us Indians and it always ensures that there is a tourist season in some part of the country or the other. Don’t hesitate to take a flight or train before renting a ride. There are people who’ve transported their Bullet bikes via train from Chennai to Jammu before embarking on the famous Leh-Ladakh-Rohtang-Manali road trip route. It’s wise to explore such options and always gives room for a backup plan.
4. The Duration
A journey from Bengaluru to Delhi doesn’t count as a road trip unless you really explore the culture and traditions of towns and villages en route. A road trip isn’t just a really long drive. Exploration plays a major role too. Spare a few days to make pit stops at places that interest you. India is a very culturally vast nation and has a lot to offer so spare a couple of hours before a halt to discover something amazing every day.
5. Driving Companions
Who you travel with is a very important point to consider. Your endurance on the road might be very different from those with whom you are planning to ride. Long drives aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and you really wouldn’t want the unnecessary moaning and complaining. There’s also the comfort factor to be taken in to account. If you’re driving with four other passengers, then the front seats tend to be more comfortable than the ones at the back. Take turns and rotate seats. Don’t let a fun journey become a painful one for everyone!
6. Essential Equipment
Again, a vital part of a road trip, be prepared for the unexpected! Here are a basic set of things that you must have:
Flashlight – Please don’t look at your mobile smart light app as a substitute! Get yourself a high power flashlight fitted with a new set of batteries. These can prove out to be very useful on a dark stretch of road.
First Aid Kit – In addition to the standard one in your car, pick specific medicines that you or your companions may require. Always carry some painkillers and basic antibiotics.
Road Helpline Numbers/Service Centre Numbers – These handy booklets are available online and at all car service centres. Don’t forget to grab your copy.
Foot Pump & Puncture Repair Kit – Opt for a sturdy foot pump versus the flimsy electric pumps available in the market. You should also have a puncture repair kit in case of tubeless tyres.
Icebox – This is a real blessing on any journey. I don’t trust the packaged drinking water that the roadside dhabas sell and in interior parts of the country, it’s hard to find water, let alone packaged. Whenever I make a halt at a hotel, at the time of check in, I inform the staff of my check out time and ask them to keep some ice and a couple of bottles of cold water ready. It works all the time.
GPS/Navigation System – This is an essential part of your road trip. Most smartphones these days have in-built navigation systems. If you’re planning to use yours, then you must buy a dashboard mount and a car charger for it as navigating for long hours drains the phone battery pretty quickly.
7. Pamper Your Ride
Get your car serviced before you hit the road. You must inform the service station about your grand plans so they fine tune your ride accordingly. Get some useful tips from them and like I do, don’t forget to grab a couple of spare fuses from them on your way out. Don’t know what they are? Talk to them! Also, while you’re on the road, hit a service centre at the first sign of trouble from your ride. Take no chances on unknown territory. Always carry an extra set of bulbs in case one of them go kaput.
8. Check Posts & Tolls
While driving, you’ll come across a lot of tolls and police check posts. You should have cash on you at all times to pay toll tax. Change always comes in very handy. As for police check posts, it’s no secret that if you’re driving a vehicle registered in a different state, then you might be subjected to a lot of checking. Make sure all your papers are valid and updated including your driving licence, registration, car insurance and pollution under control (PUC) certificate.
9. No to Spare Fuel
A debatable point but I’m against carrying any petrol/diesel in bottles or canisters in the car. If absolutely essential, use a solid canister with a tight seal and not old and used packaged water bottles. Don’t leave it in the vehicle when you make a halt and do add a fire extinguisher to the equipment list. If you’re venturing in to the interiors then do gather information on the nearest petrol pumps. This is very important; miss one and you might find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere. Don’t wait for the fuel indicator to hit the Empty mark. Top up the tank whenever the fuel needle is at 10-20 per cent.
10. Night Driving
I personally love driving at night, especially in hilly areas. But it should generally be avoided until and unless you know the roads very well. But, I avoid it whenever driving in previously unexplored territory. In a case of an unavoidable night drive keep a check on your body fluids and keep yourself fresh and refrain from driving when you are feeling drowsy.
11. Plan out Your Route
Before a trip, I always open Google Maps and check out the route on it because it gives me the overall view of the journey and also a rough driving time for each day. It helps me in keeping the correct sequence of destinations to avoid going off track. Then I go on with my research on the road conditions and the destination information. I like to use a navigation system that’s on my phone and one that I’m already familiar with. Always avoid any new roads in unknown places which are off the track.
12. Beware of the Navigation System
A word to be read carefully to the above point, don’t completely rely on the navigation system to get you to your destination. My personal experience is that the types of roads, the distance, time of arrival and traffic conditions are more irregular when going away from bigger, more organised cities. Double check routes with locals and don’t think you’re running late just because your travel time doesn’t match the duration being shown on the navigation system.
13. Always Pre-Book Your Hotels
Always check for hotels and book the desired ones before you start a road trip. It should be done to avoid any last minute problems. I also always take contact numbers of the hotels I’ll be staying at and call them a day or two in advance to let them know that I’m on my way. Always take no of local guides there just to ensure you don’t miss out on any tourist attraction point there.
14. Keep Your Family Informed:
Your Family should at all times be aware of your whereabouts. It’s not that hard with all the easy communication options available these days. I make sure to send a WhatsApp message informing them of my destination and estimated arrival time before I start driving for the day because phone signals on the road might be disruptive. Once you reach, there’s nothing more relaxing than a quick phone call.